A road in Islamabad, Pakistan leading to Faisal Mosque.
I found some pictures from our travels to suit this challenge:
Back in my homeland we have a small house in a locality where the houses are falling over each other. The houses are so close together that we can hear loud arguments or children crying in the house next door. Standing on the terrace we can look into all the surrounding houses. Any information that you do not manage to obtain in this way about your neighbors can be gotten by the cleaning ladies who frequent all the houses of the neighborhood.
Our next door neighbors have a lot of people living in the house with children of all sizes. We know this because every time a child is born they distribute mithai (traditional sweets) in the neighborhood.
One of the children is called Abdullah (we hear his mother calling him) and he is too naughty to go to school. They have tried putting him in school but after a few days the school sends him back. So Abdullah spends his time on the street waiting for the other children to return from school. Once the other children are back, it’s time for the cricket matches to start. Since the houses do not have backyards the matches are played on the street. The batsman hits the ball and it lands neatly on our terrace. Now the children are very considerate and do not bother to ring the bell and ask for the ball. The little monkeys simply go into their own house, climb the wall over onto our terrace and retrieve the ball. Another consequence of the cricket matches is that almost every week our gate lights are broken and have to be changed.
On top of all the children, the neighbors also kept a chicken and a rooster in their house. The rooster liked to climb into our house and peck on our plants. Fortunately one of the local cats solved this problem and the rooster is no more.
When we moved to Dubai we came into a locality with 3 to 5 bedroom villas with 2 car porches, a maid’s room and a big backyard. I wanted to make friends with the neighbors so I sent them some chocolates with my husband’s visiting card hoping that they would come over to say thank you. That never happened. I continued to make efforts but to no avail. Finally I gave up. Years later I have realized that only people of same nationalities socialize here. It’s really a shame.
And thinking about it, I kind of miss the cricket matches back home.
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The gap between the trees revealed the ethereal clouds caressing the mountains (Bhurban, Pakistan).
27th Oct 2003: I open the curtains and the stunning view leaves me mesmerized. I stare out at the shimmering blue water against the backdrop of a green mountain. Could such beauty really exist? It’s my first trip to the Far East and I’m with my husband who I married a few days ago. It’s the first time we’re together but it doesn’t feel that way. The hesitation I felt in the beginning seems to have melted away.
10th May 2004: We are at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. We are standing outside wondering how to get in. My husband sends me forward as he thinks I look less of a Pakistani and therefore less suspicious. I get the details and we enter the building. A few hours and many photos later we stop by a McDonalds for lunch. We are touring the United States and have 3 weeks to see as much as we can. I have discovered that my husband loves seeing new places even though he is not too adventurous.
16th Nov 2005: We have rented a car to tour the small island of Langkawi in Malaysia. We have already been in the cable car and now we’ll see the rest of the sights by car. I ask my husband if I can drive the car too but he makes an excuse. I have learnt that he likes to be in charge and I don’t mind. I’ll just relax and enjoy the ride.
30th Sept 2006: I’m with my colleagues from Pakistan on training in France. We have a car to ourselves and each weekend we visit a new place. Brittany is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. But every night as I lie down to sleep, my heart aches. 5 weeks away from my husband is the longest separation I have had to bear. So this is what being in love feels like.
6th Nov 2007: I can see the Nile from the terrace of my hotel room. The night view is the most gorgeous I have seen. But my mind is thousands of miles away. I wait for my husband to call me. I want to tell him about the incredible room I’ve got. I know he’ll call exactly when he said he will. I know very well how punctual and organized he is. Having to travel without him is such a headache.
8th Mar 2009: We are holidaying in a mountain resort in Nathiagali in Pakistan. We have bought our first home together and cannot afford to make an international trip. It has been the biggest achievement of our lives. People take all their lives to build their own home. Although I also made a major contribution I have to say that my husband is the most hard-working man I have ever met.
19th Aug 2012: We are on a plane to Maldives for our first international trip with our son. He is old enough now for us to manage well. I have brought his jigsaw puzzles and his coloring pencils to keep him occupied. But he soon grows bored and wants to go over to his dad. He snuggles up with him and they both fall asleep. I look at the two men in my life and I feel content.
23rd Dec 2013: There is only a day left for me to do our packing. Since we’re going by car I’m not too worried as there are no weight restrictions. But I should make a list of all of my son’s things as they will be the most in number. Toys, clothes, snacks, I really must make a list. I hope it’s not too cold and we can enjoy the beach. I’m sure we’ll have some good family time together. This time of the year is always exciting for me, the end of the year and the start of a new year. A time of hope, reflection and gratitude. It will be the last vacation of the year but God willing there are many more exciting times to come.
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My husband was posted in the volatile Frontier Province of Pakistan. At that time I was working so we decided that I would stay in Islamabad and he would commute over the weekends.
Just a few weeks before, my husband’s colleague had been kidnapped as he returned to the factory with his wife. The kidnappers wore policemen’s uniforms and pretended they were taking him away for questioning. They left his wife and the car. When the family discovered he had been kidnapped they arranged for the ransom. He was released after a week, alive but terribly shaken.
One evening as we talked on the phone my husband told me that he was going on a field visit the next morning. I was a bit concerned but I didn’t say anything as, after all he had to do his job.
The next morning even before I had woken up I received a call asking for my husband. “But this is not his number”, I answered “Who’s calling?”
“I am calling from the security company and we are trying to call him but we can’t get through.”
“Is everything all right?” I panicked.
“Actually, the panic button in his car was triggered and we are trying to contact him now.”
The panic button had been installed in all the company cars since the kidnapping to alert the security company if a possible kidnapping was taking place.
“This is it.” I thought, “My husband has been kidnapped.” I told the man about his field visit and that there would be others with him so he should try to contact the others as well.
I spent the next few minutes trying to call my husband and agonizing over how I would arrange the ransom money and whether I would ever see him ever again.
My phone rang. It was my husband. “Don’t worry. It was a false alarm. I just cleared it with the security company.”
Relief enveloped me. That lump in my throat cleared.
“Why was your phone off?”
“We were passing through an area where the reception was bad.”
“Ok. Call me when you reach the factory safely.”
My husband worked in that area for two years. Whenever he would travel he would be armed and with a bodyguard. I could not relax until he would message me that he had arrived at his destination. Finally when my son was born, he decided he had had enough and started to look for other jobs.
We have been living in Dubai since then for the last three years and we have never felt unsafe again.
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On 14th August 1987, on Independence Day, the song “Dil Dil Pakistan” was released by the pop group Vital Signs. I was 11 at the time studying in grade 6. This song became very popular and reached the status of a Pop Anthem or Second National Anthem of Pakistan. Everyone was singing it and Vital Signs became the most popular group in the country. I remember that I had very painstakingly (since I am not musically gifted at all) learnt to play the tune of this song on my music player.
In the 2003 BBC World Service international poll of the ten most famous songs of all time, Dil Dil Pakistan was third.
The melody, lyrics and the video of the song were very simple. It appealed to the common person.
This song takes me back to a time before the Taliban came to Pakistan, before there were suicide bombings and before sectarianism had reached extremes. When we were not even thinking about leaving the country, when we sung about our love for our homeland. This is the time when with pride in our hearts we would decorate our house with the national flag on Independence Day and sing the National anthem when it was played on TV.
(The song translated from Urdu)
This land and this sky,
Where would we go except here,
May this light forever illuminate,
May this caravan keep going.
My Heart Pakistan, My Soul Pakistan
When hearts meet,
true love is created,
When flowers are strung,
a garland is created,
My Heart Pakistan, My Soul Pakistan
Our home is more beloved to us
Than our heart and our soul
It is more beloved to us
Than our every wish.
My Heart Pakistan, My Soul Pakistan
What happened to us? How did we change so much in less than a lifetime? I ask these questions as I sit in another country thousands of miles away from my homeland. Did I really have to give it up so easily? Did it not deserve more of an effort on my part?
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“The hills are alive with the sound of music..”, the music of birds chirping and the gentle swishing of the fresh air. This is Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, built on the foothills of the Margalla hills. I miss the beautiful scenery of Islamabad, my hometown. It’s called “Islamabad The Beautiful” and with reason. Its natural greenery still leaves you in awe, though it has diminished over the years as new residential colonies and highways were built.
My favorite places are the Trail 3 hiking trail in the Margalla hills and the Monal Tree house restaurant. I have seen many places around the world, but this restaurant is the most beautiful place you can sit and eat and enjoy the atmosphere. The view is breathtaking and the food isn’t bad either.
I find the hiking trail tough to climb but once you reach the top the view is really worth it. I like that they have not tampered with the natural beauty of the place.
Just two hours from Islamabad is a hill station made famous for a big hotel constructed there, Bhurban. Further on comes Ayubia and Nathiagali. I miss the snow and the freezing cold of Nathiagali and the spectacular scenery all the way through.
Living in Dubai, they have everything, they built the tallest tower of the world, artificial islands, they even have ski slopes in one of the malls, but they can’t match the beauty of natural landscape. And they can’t build mountains. At least not yet.
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